Posted in: Meet a Church Planter
Called, Led, Blessed
by Steve Mizel
In 2005, I attended my first Acts 29 boot camp in Edwardsville, IL. I had never been to Edwardsville. I had only recently heard of Acts 29. I definitely wasn’t interested in church planting. I was 17 years into my career in education, working as a principal in St. Louis. I had no formal theological training and had no knowledge of or interest in the church-planting movement taking place around me.
I was only at the boot camp (I thought) because my family and I had started attending a new church called The Journey in St. Louis. I was there to make sure my new church wasn’t part of some strange cult. I hoped I would show up, learn a few things, and then go back home comfortable that my questions had been answered. I guess two out of three isn’t bad. I showed up and I had most of my questions answered, but the answers made me feel anything but comfortable.
Each day, when my wife Lauren and I left the boot camp, we would talk for hours, processing what we had heard that day. We were already sold on the value of the local church, but we started really thinking about God’s plan to work redemption and restoration through church multiplication. I still could not see myself as a guy who would go start a church, but God was clearly igniting a new passion in me for church planting. I went back to my school excited about The Journey, but with no plans for further involvement in Acts 29.
It shouldn’t be surprising that God seldom works his will according to our plans, but it usually still is. In January of this year, I planted an Acts 29 church named Trailhead Church in — you guessed it — Edwardsville, IL.
A year after I started attending The Journey, I felt that God was leading me to leave my career in education to become the Journey’s Family Pastor. Then, two years after that, in 2008, the other elders asked me to pray about stepping into a failed church plant in Edwardsville to re-launch it as a video venue for the Journey. My family and I prayed and I sought wise counsel from men who were now friends in the Acts 29 network in our area. It became clear that God was in this, so we put our house up for sale and we moved to Edwardsville.
The story didn’t end there, though. After two years, it became clear to me and the other elders at The Journey that God was equipping our campus to go independent. So I attended another Acts 29 boot camp (this time to be assessed as a church planter) and then in January of this year, we “grew up and moved out” and The Journey Metro East became Trailhead Church.
I look back on the whirlwind of the last 6 years with a crazy sense of wonder, deep gratitude and real joy. God upended our lives. He messed with our security. He changed our plans. And he poured out blessing on top of blessing as we simply followed and obeyed.
From that first boot camp in 2005 until now, God has used the brotherhood of Acts 29 to encourage me, challenge my thinking, strengthen my faith, and equip me to follow God’s call on my life. Six years ago, I showed up at that boot camp guarded and skeptical — unaware of the blessing God was getting ready to unleash in my life. Now, in retrospect, I am humbled and grateful for how God has used this brotherhood to surprise me again with his goodness.
God’s plan has a way of making perfect sense in hindsight — even if it is completely unpredictable in the beginning.